In the course of my PR career in the health and medical field, among the many things I did was research diseases, conditions, and injuries of celebrities and/or their close relatives. This research fell into two primary clinical areas based on the associations I worked for at the time – vision and neurosurgical, respectively. When I worked at Prevent Blindness America, I actually had the privilege of interviewing quite a few celebrities. These were typically done via the celebrity’s agent and submitted as written interview questions that I scripted. The completed interviews were published in the organization’s magazine.
The power of celebrity goes a long way to increasing disease/injury prevention and awareness. Case in point – Angelina Jolie’s recent admission that she underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to avoid the same tragic fate that befell her mother and maternal aunt. Jolie revealed this in a brave New York Times Op/Ed article titled My Medical Choice, published on May 14, 2013. She carries the BRCA1 gene and her doctors advised her that this fact, along with her family history of breast cancer gave her an 87 percent risk of developing the disease. Jolie has always been considered one of the most beautiful and sexy actresses in America, but it is her charitable, philanthropic work and intelligent frankness that set her apart.
Lists have always fascinated me, and this particular blog will be devoted to 10 celebrities who incurred injuries, in no particular order of significance. The list is by no means all-encompassing, but represents incidents I discovered that I feel are worth sharing. I am only including injuries suffered during the line of duty or the pursuit of leisure activities. I will pen a future list on celebrities that were injured or died in vehicular accidents. The majority of injuries in this list fall into one of the two categories aforementioned – eyes or head/spine.
1) Among the most tragic celebrity deaths is that of actress Natasha Richardson. In March 2009, Richardson suffered a head injury after falling on a beginner’s ski trail during a ski lesson at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, Canada. Although she refused medical treatment initially, her condition deteriorated rapidly and by the time she was airlifted to a local hospital, the epidural hematoma had caused massive bleeding between her skull and brain. Richardson was subsequently transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where she died on March 18 at the age of 45. This case brought to light several important points: skiers should always wear helmets, and how crucial it is to have level-one trauma centers in close proximity to ski slopes – the local hospital was not equipped to handle a traumatic brain injury.
2) At the age of 27, David Duchovny suffered an eye injury while playing a pick-up game of basketball. He was poked in the right eye so severely that the blow ruptured an eye muscle and caused a cataract to develop. As a result, he had the lens removed and replaced with a synthetic one. I still have the autographed photo of Duchovny and the handwritten answers in his own ballpoint scribble from the PBA interview I did more than a decade ago.
3) The most accident-prone actress of all time seems to be Halle Berry. On the set of Gothika (2003), Robert Downey Jr. broke her arm accidentally. She suffered head injuries while filming both Catwoman (2003) and The Call (2012). She broke her foot on the set of Cloud Atlas (2012). During the 2002 filming of the James Bond flick Die Another Day, she incurred an eye injury from grenade smoke and nearly choked on a fig during her big lovemaking scene with Pierce Brosnan. And these were just work-related injuries – not certain how many injuries she has incurred in her nonprofessional life!
4) Kristin Chenoweth suffered a traumatic brain injury on the set of The Good Wife in July 2012, getting knocked unconscious. Chenoweth was taken to the hospital after a gust of wind on the show’s Brooklyn, N.Y. set knocked over a piece of equipment, hitting the petite Chenoweth in the head. In addition to a 5 ½-inch skull fracture, Chenoweth’s ribs, neck, and hip were hurt in the freak accident. While she did have to drop out of the series, one in which she was slated to have a recurring role, Chenoweth was lucky that she escaped without any brain damage.
5) In 1977, while opening for Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band in Tampa, punk rock icon Patti Smith tumbled 15 feet from the stage into the orchestra pit below. This horrific accident left Smith with a fractured spine and broken vertebrae in her neck. It took months of physiotherapy to help Smith recover –she blames members of Seger’s road crew for leaving her too little space on the stage to perform. She revealed in 2012 that she still suffers from back and neck pain related to this accident.
6) In April 2006, the hard partying Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards fell out of a tree in Fiji while picking coconuts. He developed a subdural hematoma in the brain (blood clot) that required cranial surgery. Although Richards kicked his heroin habit in 1978, he was still smoking copious amounts of weed and snorting cocaine at the time of his injury. He has been quoted as saying that the head injury caused him to give up the latter permanently.
7) During a stunt that went awry on the set of Syriana in 2005, George Clooney suffered such a serious spine injury that he contemplated suicide. The injury caused prolonged, severe headaches and stroke-like symptoms, but thankfully he recovered after undergoing successful spine surgery.
8) Nico, the tone-deaf, ultra hip singer most famous for her collaboration with Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground in the 1960s, died in 1988 from injuries suffered during a cycling accident. While a mild heart attack caused her to fall off the bike, it was the cerebral hemorrhage she incurred from hitting her head on the pavement that led to her tragic death at the age of 49. While she had been a 15-year heroin addict, she was in recovery at the time of her accident.
9) In November 2011, Kelly Osbourne was dancing at a Miami nightclub when her partner dipped her clumsily and banged her head into the DJ’s amplifier. While Osbourne initially felt fine, she fainted twice in her hotel room and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. She was diagnosed with a concussion and needed stitches to close the wound.
10) French actress, singer and model Charlotte Gainsbourg fell on her head while water skiing in Miami in 2007. She didn’t think it was anything serious, but after experiencing severe headaches, it was discovered that she had a cerebral hemorrhage and she underwent emergency brain surgery at a Paris hospital. It took her nearly a year to recuperate from this surgery.